Exhilarating. Euphoric. Is there any other way to describe the incredible spectacle that unfolded at BMo Field last night as Toronto FC fought back from an elimination position twice to score a 5-2 extra time win (7-5 on aggregate) over Montreal to become Canada’s first ever entry in the MLS Cup, which will now be hosted in Toronto on December 10?
You didn’t have to like or understand soccer to enjoy the drama provided in the second leg of the East final last night. And what a roller coaster ride for the 36,000 in attendance on a rain-soaked evening. Disappointment after Montreal’s Aduro opened the scoring early. Then the brilliant answers including the near-post header from an inspired Jozy Altidore before halftime to give Toronto a significant 2-1 lead. Confusion opens the second half, and Montreal score again to take a potential tie-winning tie. Then the tremendous elevation and header by Hagglund with 20 minutes left to force extra time.
Give TFC coach Greg Vanney credit – he pushed all the right buttons last night. His substitutions of Benoit Cheyrou for a hobbled Giovinco, and Toussaint Ricketts turned out to be the difference as both scored in extra time on diving and sliding efforts into the 6-yard box to find the back of the net. It was a magical sporting moment for the city of Toronto, for a city that’s seen a few of them recently thanks to the Blue Jays.
The TFC win overshadowed a lacklustre 3-0 Leafs loss in Calgary, and a 120-105 win by the Raptors over Memphis at the ACC (who are now a solid 12-6 and quite on track in the middle of a six-game homestand), and hardly anyone was paying attention when false reports about Edwin Encarnacion signing in Houston surfaced. Yes, this was a night that soccer and TFC, a franchise that bungled the first decade of its existence, truly arrived on Toronto and North America’s sporting radar.
So what to expect in the MLS Cup? Home field advantage means more to TFC than any other team I would suggest, and the Reds have shown the resilience of a winner throughout these playoffs. Toronto and Seattle did play to a 1-1 tie in their last encounter at BMo Field in July. But no one would be more shocked than I if they weren’t hoisting the MLS Cup a week Saturday.